MASVINGO – A World Bank programme aimed at improving service delivery by urban councils in Zimbabwe has seen data availability improving from 73% in 2012 to 96% to date, George Makunde the chairman of the Urban Councils Peer Review Co-ordinating Committee has said.
He said this at a two-week Service Level Benchmarking (SLB) workshop held in Masvingo from January 31 to February 12.
The SLB was started in 2012 in order to improve on service delivery.
One of the key factors in the improvement of service delivery is having the necessary data. The starting point is that in any business one needs data and there was a realization through this programme that urban councils did not have adequate data.
Data is used to measure, compare and improve service.
"The data that councils are expected to keep is so basic that it includes information like the number of housing units in a town, the number of hours that a council supplies water to residents, the number of houses connected to the city's water system, the volume of water pumped, the amount of water lost through leakages, the amount of garbage that a local authority collects.
"Such information enables a council to measure level of service ie data like supply of water for say five hours a day shows that there is a gap in the supply. The standard is water must be supplied for 24 hours. With that information the council can then start to work towards 24 hour supply.
"So we need data to measure the level of service then we compare that level with the standard and we improve by working towards the standard," said a delegate at the workshop.
The workshops are attended by town clerks and two other focal persons from all the 32 urban councils in the country, EMA, ZINWA, Ministry of Health and Child Care for WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) a Unicefprogram and the Ministry of Local Government.
The workshops are coordinated by Professor Innocent Nhapi a consultant from the World Bank.
"Since the beginning of the peer review mechanism in 2012 we have witnessed a big improvement in data availability by urban councils to the current level of 96% in water, waste water and solid waste management.
"This has gone a long way in helping councils to deliver quality services to residents as data would be well documented and readily available so that where there are gaps and problems they are quickly attended to," said Dr Makunde.
The improvement in data availability has also resulted in easy consolidation of draft budgets and this has seen most councils submitting budgets to the Ministry earlier than usual and hence approval of such budgets before the beginning of a financial year.
"Of the 32 urban authorities only one is still to have its budget approved as the budgets were IRBM (Integrated Results Based Management) compliant which is a record from the previous year where some budgets were approved mid-year at the expense of residents.
"This also obliges residents to pay rates as they will be part of the process," Makunde said.
He also said the peer review program which is composed of town clerks, engineers, chamber secretaries, finance directors and health directors has gone a long way in improving service delivery to residents.
Priscilla Nyarai Mudzingo the director for urban local authorities in the Ministry of Local Government Public Works and Urban Development also said the SLB peer review mechanism is very important because of the standards being set and the competition being created amongst them.
"Each local authority has certain standards to maintain and as a result that helps in service delivery to residents created by the competition to be the best among their peers," said Mudzingo on the sidelines of the workshop.
She also said they have been focusing on the WASH program as a starting point because of the outbreak of waterborne diseases in the country where cholera killed over 4000 people in 2008 and 2009 mainly in urban set ups.
"The workshops which are done every first quarter of the year will change focus from WASH to other deliverables from next year as we feel this area is now manageable and the results are pleasing," she said.
"The program has had a big impact on service delivery especially provision of clean water to the residents with the assistance of the World Bank through the WASH program," said Gilson Chakauya the acting town clerk for Redcliff who also attended the workshop.business news